The US employment report for December, released Friday by the Labor Department, shattered exposure of the Obama administration’s claims that the US economy is in the midst of a recovery.
Just one day before, in announcing his "economic promise zones", Obama had touted the so-called recovery, insisting, in the face of widespread disbelief among working people, that it was "real", the World Socialist Web Site reported.
The US economy generated a net increase of only 74,000 jobs in December, about one third the number predicted by economists and less than half the amount needed to keep pace with population growth. The increase in non-farm payrolls was the lowest since January 1, 2011, when the economy added 69,000 jobs. Friday’s number followed two months in which payrolls grew by 200,000 or more, leading to claims that the economy was shifting into high gear.
The unemployment rate for December dropped sharply, from 7 percent to 6.7 percent. However, this decline was not the result of an improvement in the real economy. On the contrary, it was caused by a further exodus of workers from the labor force, which shrank by 347,000. In the past twelve months, the labor force has contracted by almost 550,000 workers.
In the so-called “recovery” since the Wall Street crash of 2008, a decline in the official jobless rate has perversely become, more often than not, an indicator of deepening social crisis rather than a sign of expanding production and rebounding employment. Most of the decline in the government’s jobless rate from 10.0 percent in October 2009 has been due to the fact that millions of people have fallen out of the job market because of economic conditions.
According to a survey by the Economic Policy Institute, 5.99 million “missing workers” have dropped out of the labor force over the past five years for economic, not demographic, reasons. If these missing workers were counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate would be 10.2 percent.
The labor force participation rate fell to 62.8 percent in December from 63.0 percent the month before, hitting the lowest level since 1978. Over the past year, the labor force participation rate has dropped by 0.8 percentage points.
This is the depressed economic context in which the Obama administration and the Republicans allowed long-term unemployment benefits to expire for over a million people last month, a social crime that highlights the class war policy being carried out against working people.